05 Jun A Non-Marketer’s Guide to App Promotion
The mobile app stores of today are very different to what they were when just launched in 2008. With fewer than 100,000 apps added to them in the first year, being noticed was a lot easier. Now, with more than 2-million apps in each of the top app stores, a lot more effort is needed when it comes to app promotion.
App promotion is a little easier when your marketing strategy takes into account the three distinct stages of the app marketing cycle: pre-launch, launch, and post-launch. All of the activities discussed below happen in each stage, with only some minor adjustments made. It is only the analysis of your app’s performance that begins post-launch.
What is critical when putting together the strategy, is that your marketing team and development team need to work together at all stages. Both teams are able to make valuable contributions that inform decisions. And this will ultimately influence the success of both the app, and the marketing effort.
If you’re a solo developer, however, you will need to get into the habit of wearing two caps at the same time: one for app promotion, and the other for app development.
Create and Launch a Website
Missive has been available as a desktop app for some time now, but only recently launched an iOS app (with Android on the way). The Missive website has been updated to reflect this, including a blog post announcement that actually addresses users.
One of the first steps in your app promotion strategy should be to launch a dedicated website for the app. Early in the development cycle this may well be a barebones site, with minimal information, but that’s okay. The information on the website will be updated as you confirm or finalize specific features in the app, as you get closer to launching the app. What is very important at stages of development, is that the website includes an email collection form at all times.
Collecting email addresses ahead of the app’s launch serves two purposes:
- You are able to market the app directly to interested users once it launches. Send an email blast to all the addresses you have collected, announcing that the app is now available, and include direct links to the app on the relevant App Stores.
- You create a pool of potential beta testers who can help you identify technical, UI, and UX problems before the app launches.
Beta testers are not only able to provide you with valuable feedback, but some may even become early influencers, marketing your app to their own audience.
On launch day the information on the site should be updated to reflect that the app is now available, and the email collection form can be replaced with links to the app on the relevant App Stores. The website will remain an important part of your app marketing strategy since many users discover apps through regular search engine queries, not only through the App Store.
Adapt Your Social Media Strategy
Vitcord already had a large following on Facebook by the time they launched the iOS version of their video app, allowing them to easily reach an existing fan base.
Your social media strategy should begin as soon as you start the very first stages of development. If you’re an existing business launching your first app, the marketing of the app can piggyback on your current social media strategy by:
- Teasing that you are developing an app.
- Sharing periodic updates on the development, and releasing brief details of what the app will offer.
- Sharing screenshots of the app, and start confirming some of the features.
Once the app launches you will continue to promote the app periodically, focusing on specific features, and any app updates that are released. Remember to adjust your social listening to begin monitoring for any mentions of your app so that you can immediately engage with these users.
Create a Video
It has been possible to include a video preview of your app on the app stores for more than two years now, but the push to promote video content by the major social networks mean you now have an even bigger network on which to visually promote your app. And there is good reason to create a video preview: A/B testing by StoreMaven found that apps that include a video preview in their app store listing can get a 20-35 percent bump in conversions.
But when creating your video preview, it is important to remember the following:
- The Apple App Store and Google Play Store have different guidelines for video previews. It is possible to create only one video that can be used on both stores, but only if you are very familiar with the guidelines and any limitations they create.
- Many people watch videos without sound, so your preview should make perfect sense with or without sound. Use subtitles or callouts if necessary. Watching the Facebook video content of digital publishers like Mashable, Buzzfeed, and Tech Insider can help if you’re not sure how to incorporate onscreen text.
- The first 5-seconds are the most important. If they aren’t attention grabbing, you won’t be attracting many views. Or installs.
- It isn’t a tutorial. Highlight the functions and features, but balance this with highlighting the experience, and the value the app brings.
- Show different content to that shown in the screenshots in your app store listing. There’s no value here – to your and your audience – in just repurposing content.
Create a Press Kit
The Press Kit for Wave X includes logos, mockups, screenshots, and a press release.
Getting your app featured on Product Hunt is a great way to generate interest and coverage, but it doesn’t replace the need to also send out a press release – or informal email – to major online publications. And both of these are so much more effective if you have also taken the time to put together a neat little press kit. Journalists and writers are always constrained by time, so giving them easy access to assets they can use in any write-up on your app is important. Your press kit should contain the following:
- high-resolution (print ready) versions of your company logo, app logos, banners and icons,
- high-resolution screenshots of your app,
- any video’s you have created for the app,
- copies of all press releases that you have sent out about the app,
- a brief company profile,
- links to all relevant social profiles and contacts,
- a review guide, made up of in-depth details of all features in the app, along with system requirements, pricing, release information, and any FAQs you have thought of,
- high-resolution lifestyle photo’s, showing the app in context to normal use. (not required, but it can be more appealing than standard screenshots)
Include a link to your press kit in any email you send out to journalists, writers, and influencers, and make sure it is also clearly linked to on your app’s website. Update it whenever your app receives any significant feature and/or design updates.
Establish an App Store Optimization Strategy
The first three lines of Moodnotes app store description clearly explain the purpose of the app. The rest of the description is used to offer more detail, ending with some of the app’s achievements.
In the same way that search engine optimisation (SEO) makes your website more visible and discoverable, app store optimisation (ASO) can boost your visibility and discoverability to app store browsers. Points to consider include:
- The app name. Aim for a descriptive name that includes relevant keywords, and only uses URL-safe characters. The Apple App Store has a 255-character limit on app names, but generally only uses the first 50-characters for ranking and display. The Google Play Store has a 30-character limit on app names.
- App keywords. You are limited to 100 characters when adding keywords, so it is important that you select keywords that are relevant, and that you can rank high for. Look at what keywords your competitors are using, and don’t use the app name as a keyword. Separate keywords using a comma, but eliminate spaces completely.
- App description. The first 2-3 lines of your description should be strong enough to convince users to install the app, since many users don’t read past that. For those that do, you can include a list of primary features and benefits, and later, social proof in the form of any recognition or awards for the app, user reviews, and even the app’s overall rank on the App Store.
- App screenshots. Include as many screenshots as you can, but the most relevant ones should appear first. Add text explanations to the images only if they are necessary.
- App icon. Make sure your app icon stands out, especially among your competitors – both in the app store, and when installed on a user’s device. Avoid including text in your app icon since it becomes almost illegible at small sizes.
- App ratings. App ratings and reviews are an important part of ASO, but you should avoid pushing users to rate and review your app: 1-2 requests are fine. Listen to criticism from users, respond to requests for features, and try to fix any bugs as quickly as possible.
Like SEO, your ASO should be an ongoing process where you regularly make adjustments to boost your app’s visibility in the App Store. And like SEO, this means doing regular keyword research, and always been aware of what your competitors are doing, and how they rank.
Expand Your Marketing Strategy
With more than 30,000 new apps being added to the top app stores each month, being lucky enough to land a mention on Product Hunt and in a few top publications is not longer enough to guarantee success for your app. Four years after its release, many developers still dream of having the same wildfire success of the original Flappy Bird. But Flappy Bird only became an “overnight success” seven months after it was first released. Dong Nguyen claimed to have not used any marketing to promote the app, but later failed to deny rumours that he had used bots to boost the app’s visibility. Regardless of what the truth is, it is a reminder that many overnight success stories are usually months in the making.
Positive word-of-mouth marketing is rarely spontaneous. Instead it usually requires a little bit of artificial stimulation, which isn’t necessarily free. If you’re an indie developer, you’re probably hoping to get away without spending any money on marketing, but this is just not possible anymore. Unless you have a massively engaged and influential following on social media, getting access to influencers requires a willingness to spend a bit of money. You can try connecting with influencers on your own, but this would mean sacrificing time and effort that would be better spent on developing your app.
In addition to running an influencer campaign, consider budgeting for an app install campaign. An app install campaign will see you running ads on Facebook, Twitter, Google, or any of the other platforms that support app install ads. Instead of just promoting your app, these ads make it easy for interested users to immediately connect to the relevant app store to install your app. And remember that advertising on social media networks allow you to define your target audience with a lot more detail than many other networks.
Analyze Your Performance
Once your app has launched, you (or your marketing team, if you’re lucky enough to have one) needs to begin monitoring the performance metrics for it. Although Google Analytics can be adjusted to report basic app metrics, there are also a variety of app analytics tools available that can report a wealth of information relating to your app’s overall performance. You aren’t only interested in how many people have installed your app, but also metrics such as engagement, retention, and the cost per install. Having a high number of installs is meaningless if people are not using your app regularly, or if the cost per install exceeds the average revenue you are making per user.
Generating interest in your app is not as easy as it was seven years ago, but it isn’t impossible either. With a carefully laid out marketing strategy you can get your app seen by the right users. And while this app promotion guide won’t make you a marketing expert, you would also no longer be a marketing freshman.